Subway Claims Trademark On 'Footlong' Threatens Hotdog Seller Who's Been Selling Footlongs For Decades

from the descriptive? dept

Another day, another ridiculous trademark claim. Ubiquitous sandwich shop Subway threatened a hot dog provider in Coney Island who had been selling “footlong” hotdogs for decades, claiming that it had applied for a trademark on “footlong.” The cease and desist demanded that the company cease using the designation for their hotdogs (and on their website, which is GoFootlongs.com).

There are all sorts of problems with this. First, the trademark is only applied for, so Subway doesn’t even know if it’s going to get the trademark. Demanding a cease & desist is a bit premature. Also, it’s hard to see the USPTO approving this (one hopes), seeing as “footlong” is purely descriptive, and you’re not allowed (in theory) to get trademarks on something that is purely descriptive.

Even so, when the folks at Planet Money (who have a sudden, if amusingly odd, interest in trademark law), called Subway, the company claimed that the cease & desist was a mistake. A “clerical error,” a spokesperson claimed. I’m confused how a clerical error leads to a legal threat, but such is life these days. The error was apparently that Subway only intends to bully those selling “footlong” sandwiches, rather than “footlong” other things, such as hot dogs.

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Companies: subway

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Comments on “Subway Claims Trademark On 'Footlong' Threatens Hotdog Seller Who's Been Selling Footlongs For Decades”

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41 Comments
Danny says:

Seriously? Trademark on the footlong? Well considering that there is actually sandwich called the footlong I don’t see how this can be claimed. However we also live in a country where cell phone providers literally spend more money on arguing over who can claim that they have the “best service”, “largest network”, and “fewest dropped calls” than on their actual networks…

R. Miles (profile) says:

The Coney Island dog vendor should...

…just change the name to Monster dogs.

Oh, wait.

Well, what about the iDog? Oops, that won’t work.

How about the Monster Footlong iDog! Yes, that’s it! Certainly all three words can’t be filed against! In fact, maybe he should trademark it!

I’m waiting for the day someone sues the French for the text found on the Statue of Liberty for copyright infringement.

Bob says:

Trademark

I was under the impression that you could not trademark expressions that were already in common usage. Is that true? If so, is this a case of a trademark being granted beyond the bounds of law?

The same is true of AMC theater’s trademark of “Silence is Golden”. I’m pretty sure that existed before AMC theaters and that when people use the expression they are not referring to the movie theater company.

DocMenach (profile) says:

Re: Trademark

I was under the impression that you could not trademark expressions that were already in common usage. Is that true? If so, is this a case of a trademark being granted beyond the bounds of law?

Unfortunately, there are quite a few common terms that companies and/or people have tried to claim. Simplistic, common phrases such as “3peat”(Pat Riley), “Super Sunday”(NFL Football), “Winter Games”(Olympics), “Vancouver 2010″(Olympics), and many other phrases that should not by any means be covered by trademark have been granted trademark protections.

pesti (profile) says:

This is the kind of thing that happens when you have a room full of overpaid, bored corporate attorneys. I can picture the
meetings that took place when they decided to get their employer, Subway, to apply for the trademark, rubbing their hands together, envisioning the piles of money they would make
litigating…..The legal profession has become a prime bastion
for Idiotic, self important ***holes

Dave says:

Subway's Douchebaggery

This company has been getting increasingly obnoxious these last few years, starting with the commercials featuring Jared, posterboy for corporate soundbite pandering. Top that off with their overweening need to discredit competition with slander rather then simply promote their own good product.
Now, I enjoy a good Subway sandwich (50/50 shot depending on the English comprehension level of the average ‘sandwich-ista), but they need to take a step back and drop the frikkin’ attitude. You make sanwiches, you’re a glorified deli, get over yourselves!

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